Warren and Mahoney Architects 77 DPA Architects The Observatory Hotel and Observatory Tower – The Arts Centre of Christchurch

  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Richard McGowan, Ian Adamson, Shane Horgan, Tim Holmes, Tao Shen, Margie Phillips, Dave Pearson
  • Client
    The Arts Centre of Christchurch Trust

The Arts Centre recently completed its most recent reconstruction and restoration project, the Observatory Hotel and Observatory Tower, marking the final addition to the western precinct.

This collection of interconnected buildings has undergone extensive reconstruction and strengthening, now serving a new purpose as a premium boutique hotel and functioning observatory.

The Observatory and Biology buildings were originally completed in 1896, representing the last significant designs by architect Benjamin Mountfort. In 1918, the Biology Extensions building was added, followed by the Physics building in 1917, designed in the Gothic Revival style by Collins and Harman. The Observatory itself was constructed to house the equatorial telescope donated to the College by James Townsend in 1871.

The project involved substantial repairs and reconstruction of the Biology, Physics, and Observatory buildings. The interior spaces were refitted and revitalised, while extensive seismic protection measures were implemented to ensure the buildings' resilience for the future.

The Observatory Tower suffered severe damage during the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, leading to its partial collapse and subsequent demolition and reconstruction. Whenever possible, the original building materials were reused. Stones and bricks were carefully cleaned, archived, and stored by the Arts Centre's skilled stonemasons for future reinstallation.

To accommodate the new concrete core while preserving the original external dimensions, the tower walls' stones were trimmed. In cases where replacements were necessary, new blocks were carved from Oamaru stone, and locally manufactured bricks were used. The timber joinery for the tower, mostly destroyed, was reconstructed based on evidence from the original items and drawings.

The creation of an immersive and captivating hotel interior environment drew inspiration from the restored building fabric while introducing a new and unexpected visitor experience that perfectly complements the building and its surroundings.

The initial concept of an "Art Hotel," proposed by Arts Centre management, was further developed and expanded by Jessica Close across the reception, hospitality spaces, and 33 guest rooms.

Approaching the remains of a heritage building, ravaged by earthquakes, within a cherished heritage precinct demands a profound sense of responsibility not taken lightly by the project team. Meticulous care and unwavering commitment to archaeological preservation is demonstrated throughout, while the hotel serves as the cornerstone of a rejuvenated urban precinct, bringing vitality and renewed vigour to the region.